I don’t know how it is for other fiction writers, but usually the way I land on complete stories is by snagging “scenes”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=229 that spin about through my head and writing them down on paper. They’re incomplete snapshots of events that have not fully developed in my mind yet, but I know that if I do not write them down, I will ultimately lose them forever.
So, I write little bits and pieces here and there and set them aside, file them until a later date. I have discovered that, if I wait long enough, two or three (or more) of those scenes begin to connect. They form these little alliances, joining forces against me. Enough of this and I have no other choice – it must be put to ink. I finally have a complete story that has been built in front of me, completely separate from my own contrivance. In short, the story built itself from the random firing of synapses in my brain, and I am just the pen that gives permanent form to the specters of my mind.